Best Albums 2007 (11-15)

15. Marnie Stern — In Advance of the Broken Arm

Stern yelps great and shreds great and Zack Hill drums great. But what renders her clamor brilliant rather than adept is novelty appeal rather than chops–not that she dares to be great but that she dares to grate–and if you think that’s a dis you’re a snob. In the spirit of instrumental-first smarty post-post-rock, the meaning of “Every Single Line Means Something” is that titles don’t. Two albums later, she’s still coasting on sheer exhilaration, with diminished-not-negligible results, and I swear it’s not snobbery to expect something new from a talent this irrepressible. No offense to Hill, but I wish she’d form a band. A real band. With other women.

14. Hyphy Hitz

These collected Bay Area clowns may have as little sense of plot as Family Guy (the source material for the gooey finale “Stewy”) but their jokes are funnier, and they’re no more two-dimensional than their contemporaries, just more upfront about it. From their revamped electro beats to their lyrical sensibility, which recalls the long-ago recuperation of “fool,” “dumb,” “stupid,” and “sick,” this scene was hardly cutting edge–no surprise that MVPs E-40 and Keak had been kicking around for years. Of course unreconstructed rockcrits loved this sound: Hyphy’s throwback to a more creatively juvenile spirit bears the same relationship to thug-pop bloat that Ramones did to ELP. And, sadly, had about as much commercial impact.

13. No Age — Weirdo Rippers

Marginal malcontents will always mistake “noise annoys” for the whole of the law. But eventually (damn near invariably) avant-garde scenes gestate an accessible thrill for us well-wishing rubberneckers, and guitarist Randy Randall and drummer Dean Spunt were The Smell’s gift to my world. By skimming the cream from five previous EPs, these sonic youths demonstrate that their sense of structure was the fruit of collaboration rather than a pre-existing condition. Self-disciplined but never austere, their din achieves beauty because it craves form rather than transcendence.

12. Balkan Beat Box — Nu Med

You could hear Eugene Hutz hovering over the shoulder of their self-titled debut, but here drummer Tamir Muskat and multi-woodwind whiz Ori Kaplan find their true voices through conversation with others. Lots of others: Gilber Gilmore shares a childhood Moroccan tune, members of London Bulgarian Choir contribute an a capella duet, Macedonian clarinetist Ismail Lumanovski guests on “BBBeat.” Here some Queens Roma, there an Arabic rap from a Syrian singer,  everywhere MC Tomer Yosef hyping the crowd. And what keeps the burble from deteriorating into babble is the strong Jewish-Gypsy accent that predominates.

11. Burial–Untrue

William Bevan is one of those anonymous soundscapers seeking to refine his mastery out of existence, paring his fingernails while the universe decomposes into atoms. And yet, as ghostly beats tumble into the eternal echo, haunted by the voices that Moriconi thought audible if we could only access the correct frequency (here often attached to more famous names than your ears suspect), Burial’s neato sound effects creak with the irreducibly material persistence of the industrial decay just outside your window.

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